Some of the latest ploys being used by hackers:
Phishing: Official-looking e-mails and web sites try to dupe people into volunteering passwords and financial information.
Pharming: Web addresses actually are hijacked. In other words, you type a legitimate address into your browser but get diverted to a hacker's site.
Drive-by downloads: Malicious code is planted on a legitimate (or shady) web site. When you visit the site, this code can exploit weaknesses in your web browser to quietly infect your machine.
Evil twin attacks: Hackers impersonate a Wi-Fi hot spot, jamming the legitimate signal with their own. You think you are logging onto a genuine service, but instead are linked to hackers who can snag personal data you transmit.
Search engine poisoning: You do a search, say, for anti-spyware software. But hackers rig the search results to include an authentic-looking site that may infect your machine.
Spyware: Confusing pop-up ads trick people into downloading software they don't want. Running in the background, these programs gum up computer performance, deliver more pop-ups, and may monitor your online travels.
Keyloggers: Spyware that forwards your keystrokes to marketers or criminals so they know your passwords and web destinations.
Some tips to secure your digital devices:
• Windows users should install the latest Service Pack, and enable automatic security updates.
• Avoid wireless (Wi-Fi) hotspots in busy places such as airports and hotels where many others could be connected.
• Install Internet firewall software to block intruders.
• Avoid using instant messaging via Wi-Fi networks.
• Run anti-virus and anti-spyware software from trusted vendors, and keep these programs updated.
• If your mobile phone has Bluetooth technology, de-activate it until you need it.
• Set your e-mail program to automatically delete attachments containing "executable" (.exe) files.
• Be wary of file-sharing programs; they can bundle lots of spyware.
• Steer clear of questionable Web sites.
• Consider switching to the Firefox browser or Apple computers; though not ironclad, they are targeted less often by virus writers than Microsoft applications.
• Be wary of online offers for free games and toolbars.
• Don't click any links in pop-up ads; close them by clicking the X icon in the title bar.
• Activate security features of your home wireless network.
• Ignore spam offers for anti-spy-ware tools; such offers may install spyware.
• Turn off your laptop's wireless card until you need it.
Did You Know?
• One in 10 e-mails contains a virus, is spam or a phishing attempt.
• Malicious code was found embedded in JPEG and BMP digital photo files.
• You are most likely to get hacked on a Saturday; Tuesday is the lightest day for the bad stuff.
• About 46 percent of phishing sites are hosted in the U.S. China is next at 28 percent, followed by Korea at 11 percent.
• There were 1,017,208 known viruses in the first half of 2010, up 50 percent from the previous year.
• Microsoft Windows users are still the number one target (99.4%) of all the new malware.
SOURCES: Richard Smith; Ben Edelman; F-Secure; Federal Trade Commission;
IBM Global Business Security Index Report, The Anti-Phishing Working Group